Sixpack Abs and Core Strength Do Not Come From Crunches

Written on:February 20, 2013
Comments
Add One

I Hurt My Back

It hurts, it hurts a lot.  I was lifting a bike into the back of my car with crazy form, weight away from my body and my back obviously not in a good position.  Probably I didn’t brace, man I was in a hurry.  Then I felt that pop and slow heat in my lower back and I knew it was bad.  It wasn’t muscular, that’s for sure.

Straight away I took myself down to the guys at http://physioonbrunswick.com.au/ to have a look.  One quick assessment later and I had been diagnosed as “presenting with an L4/L5 disk bulge”.  Apparently it’s only minor or I’d not be capable of walking.  But walking I was…just.   Long story short it’s now a couple of days later and I’m vertical, walking without pain, but I am not challenging the lower back at this point.  I’m being a good patient and doing all of the physio exercises and things are slowly getting back in order.  Now I realise how often my kids ask to be picked up, because I’ve never had to say no before.  They were largely unsympathetic.

As a result of this, the physio has suggested that I spend a little more time working on my core, so I have been doing some research.  My thoughts were that I could do some crunches, perhaps a bit of planking and bobs your uncle.  While reading up a couple of things I came across an article which shocked me, about how some people claim that crunches can actually be doing your lower back harm.  Here it is:  http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/blogs/the-human-condition/2009/06/03/stop-doing-sit-ups-why-crunches-don-t-work.html.

It’s quoting Stuart McGill (http://www.backfitpro.com/), who I’ve been reading up on lately.  He had this to say about crunches:

“There are only so many bends or a ‘fatigue life’,” in your spinal disks,” says Stuart M. McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo. Inside each disk is a mucus-like nucleus, he says, and “if you keep flexing your spine and bending the disk over and over again, that nucleus slowly breaches the layers and causes a disk bulge, or a disk herniation.”  A herniated disk won’t show through your swimsuit, but it’s no fun, and can cause persistent back and leg pain, weakness, and tingling

In short, he’s saying that you are going to wear out the lower back by performing loads of crunches, and the end result is pain.  I know that pain so now I am going to work on core strength which doesn’t involve that repeated strain on the disks.

Further than wear and tear on the disks, crunches also do not actually strengthen the core muscles which provide the stability and strength that we need for day to day activities.  In short they’re all about show, with no go.  I’m interested in functional fitness.  Besides which, six pack abs start in the kitchen.  If you want to put them on show, then you’re going to have to start digging through that fatty layer on the outside.

My Exercises For Core Strength

Push UpObviously I’m going slow on this one.  For starters there are a couple of mobility exercises that the physio has given me that I am going to work on until next I meet him.  When I do, I’m going to ask whether it’s appropriate for me to start on some core work such as Push Ups, Planks and Leg Drops.  The pushup isn’t usually considered a core strength exercise, however it really is.  You move your core muscles to stabilize your trunk as your arms and back work to move the body up and down.  It works the abs, front of your legs, arms and back. It’s a truly functional exercise.

For back health and stronger core are also the ones that work your abs while holding your spine straight, like planks or leg drops.

Surely you’ve seen a plank before!

 

 

 

 

Leg drops are when you lie on your back and raise your legs up at a 90 degree angle, then slowly lower until they’re only inches from the ground. Repeat to exhaustion.

Conclusion

In everyday life, you still need to keep an eye on your form when lifting.  Particularly if your core needs some work!  Don’t think of crunches as helpful, they most certainly are not.  Pushups, planks and leg drops are a great start to core strength.  Finally, remember that six pack abs are born in kitchen and on the circuit!

Alcohol Free For A Month, I Call It JaNOary

Written on:January 19, 2013
Pouring red wine into a glass

Alcohol Free One Month A Year First of all, to be clear, I don’t consider myself to be an excessive drinker.  I cycle to work four to five days a week, and on those nights that I get home after the ride the last thing I am thinking about i a glass of wine.  What I’m after is a glass of water. That being said, it’s a different thing when…

Read more...

An Effective Workout In Four Minutes?

Written on:December 29, 2012
Squat

My Spare Time Is Limited As a guy who’s time poor and often doesn’t get a chance to make it into the gym, I’m always looking for ways to work out that are effective, require minimal (or no) equipment, and take less time. For instance, I choose to ride my bike to work because it means that: I get to work for free.  Almost…bikes take some maintenance I don’t have to…

Read more...

Motivation – 5 Steps For Achieving And Maintaining It

Written on:December 12, 2012
Motivational

If you feel stuck in a rut or perhaps are just not achieving the goals you set quickly enough, then perhaps you are suffering a lack of motivation.  Contrary to popular opinion, motivation isn’t something that just appears, or is easy to come by.  It’s something which must be worked on, and that’s the beauty of it; motivation is something that can be worked on! This article is the 5…

Read more...

Weightloss Time Poor Fat to Fit

Written on:December 5, 2012
Tony Jay

I’m an IT consultant and a father raising two young children, four and six.  Both of my kids were quite a handful in the early days with colic, no sleeping, various respiratory issues and general hard work.  I was spending all of my time looking after my kids and supporting my wife, and basically not looking after myself. I became an overweight, unfit, unhealthy, sleep deprived shadow of a human being!…

Read more...